DACA recipients still playing the waiting game

1 year 7 months 2 weeks ago Sunday, April 22 2018 Apr 22, 2018 Sunday, April 22, 2018 7:35:00 PM CDT April 22, 2018 in News
By: Jessica Porter, KOMU 8 Reporter

MEXICO, Mo. – Approximately one year after President Trump took office, the lives of DACA recipients hang in the balance.

Ana Garcia's fate is in the hands of Congress, as it that of other "dreamers" who are a part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Explore our 360 video below.)

Garcia said there’s one thing she wants lawmakers to know.

“I think the situation needs to be looked at in a humanity way and not as a political thing because we have waited so long, because it’s been a political fight, and it’s not. You know you can’t just have people’s lives just hanging throughout this,” she said. “Whatever happens to a person like me, affects a whole community and in the end, it affects a whole county.”

Garcia, who lives in Mexico, Missouri, is originally from Oaxaca, Mexico. She came to the United States in 1999 with her family when she was six years old. She said she's pround to call Missouri home.

“I’m fully an American in the heart. I celebrate the American holidays, and like I said, I’m very proud to be Mexican, too, but the reality is that this is home,” she said.

Getting DACA Status

Garcia said when she was in high school there was a lot of talk about DACA.

“It was just something that was kind of up in the air, something that President Obama wanted to put through,” she said. “I even remember writing a paper for it for one of my classes because I knew the huge benefit that it would have in my life.”

Garcia was about to enter into adulthood and knew the program would open doors for her, like being able to continue her education. Thanks to DACA, she’s currently enrolled in Moberly Area Community College.

She knew it would provide her, not just an education, but a sense of security.

“I was about to to be 18 and out of high school, and not having the proper documentation put me in greater risk of deportation,” she said.

Garcia graduated high school in May 2011. She went to work rather than going to college because she didn’t have any type of social status – including a social security number.

In June 2012, when President Obama signed the executive order for DACA, she filled out an application to qualify. She called an attorney who explained all the risks of filing.

"I mean, you’re basically coming out and telling the government that you’re here undocumented," she said. "But I didn’t have anything to loose, and for me, it was really all to gain so we filed an application.”

Garcia said it took a few months for the paperwork to go through, but the wait was worth it. 

“It was really exciting. I just remember feeling so relieved. Until then, it had been roughly 12 years, 12 to 13 years I had been living like this and so it was constant fear, but like I said it became a bigger fear once I became an adult.”

Getting a driver’s license was the first thing Garcia did after getting her status approved. During her time as an undocumented immigrant, a license was just one of the many forms of identification she wasn’t able to have.

“I had been driving without a driver’s license,” she said. “I mean, I needed to run to do errands for my mom growing up, taking my brothers to school, getting home from school and I mean there was a huge need for me to drive.”

After years of living in fear of being pulled over, Garcia said after she got her license it was like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

“I didn’t have that fear any more when an officer would drive behind me,” she said. “I would freak out, but after I had DACA that was a fear I didn’t have anymore.”

Instead, there was another fear Garcia would face. 

Witnessing deportation  

“My dad went through more than one deportation; I would say four to five through the years he was here,” Garcia said. 

The very last time was in April 2010. Garcia said her father was coming home from helping a friend when he was pulled over because his tail-light was out. Her father had been pulled over before and, according to Garcia, the police recognized him. She said the police called ICE and her father was detained for a year.

“I think that year was really, really hard on my dad because it really scared him to really never want to come back ever again,” she said.

In May 2011, her dad was deported. Two months later, her mother and her two younger brothers went back as well.

Since Garcia is a DACA recipient, she’s not allowed to leave the country, which she said is difficult for her since her immediate family lives in Mexico.

“I can’t ever hear the phone ring and if it’s a call from Mexico, especially if it’s late at night, my heart just goes crazy because that just must be bad news,” she said. “It’s really hard obviously because I want to see parents, but I don’t want lose the status I’ve gained through DACA.”

Ana said witnessing her father’s experience as an undocumented immigrant dealing with the police moved her to help other undocumented immigrants in her community.

“I started having people call me to translate if they were in legal situations and stuff like that or they needed someone to go with them to court and that was something I was not able to do before.”

It's something she's thankful she's able to do and said it's an important lesson she wants to pass down to her children. 

The Next Generation

"I think that’s how my parents were. They wanted us to do better than they did," Garcia said. "Obviously, I want my kids to do better and I think, at the end, that’s all part of this dream that my parents came to the United States with."

Garcia is the mother of a 2-year-old son named Xavi. Garcia said she’s thankful he doesn’t have to go through all of the anxieties she faced as an undocumented immigrant growing up. 

“Simple stuff, like driving without a driver’s licenses, applying for scholarships, taking college classes in high school - those are all things, because of my status, I wasn’t able to do,” she said. “The fact that he will get to do things like that makes me happy and I’m excited, it’s just exciting to see how his future will play out.”

Garcia said it's something she hopes to be around for. That could depend on what happens in Washington.

Where DACA stands now

In February, the Supreme Court ruled it would decline to hear a case about the program, which gave lawmakers in Washington time to figure out their next steps.

Members of Congress have been talking about DACA for months, scrambling to come up with a deal that protected people after President Donald Trump said the program needed to end.

By refusing the hear a case about the program, the Supreme Court allowed to stand a federal ruling that the Trump administration must resume accepting renewals of DACA participants. 

Then, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to change its decision. The first hearing on that won’t happen until October and a decision wouldn’t come until at least spring of 2019.

On April 1, the president tweeted his continued opposition to DACA.

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